Stakeholder Salience Diagram

What is it?

The Stakeholder Salience Diagram models stakeholders along three dimensions of: power, legitimacy, and urgency. These three attributes are combined into an overall level of stakeholder salience for the project.

Why do it?

The Stakeholder Salience Diagram is designed to enable a project team determine the degree to which the team gives “… priority to competing stakeholder claims in their decision-making process.” [1] It is important to note that stakeholder salience can vary over the project lifecycle and in regards to different aspects of the project, so the project team should regularly re-analyze and update any stakeholder salience diagrams in use for a project.

How do I do it?

Step 1

The first step is for the project team to discuss and rate stakeholder importance along each of the three dimensions.

Power: The project team will want to define how they will define power for the project. But a common definition is “a relationship in which one actor, A, can get another actor, B, to do something it would not have otherwise done”. This power can be based on: coercion (based on force or threat), utilitarian (based on resource control or incentives offered), or normative (based on symbolic influences such as moral authority).

Legitimacy: An evaluation based on legitimacy is based on “a generalized perception or assumption that the action of an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate with some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs and definitions.” So again, the project team will need to define what factors will convey levels of legitimacy. But factors such as who is funding the effort, who is impacted by the effort, and who has control of specific assets needed to execute the project are common factors of legitimacy.

Urgency: Urgency is the salience framework is defined as “the degree to which stakeholder claims call for immediate attention”. [1] In general, there are two dimensions of urgency, a timeliness factor and an importance factor. A stakeholder requirement that does not have to be met NOW, but HAS to be met as some point, is still an Urgent need for that stakeholder. One important factor in evaluating the timeliness aspect of urgency is when has the claim/issue been raised? If the project scope has already been set, as solution defined, and development began; a urgent claim for a feature by a stakeholder my be assessed at a lower urgency level due the cost and difficulty of incorporating the request.

Step 2

Once the stakeholders have been evaluated on the three dimensions, they are mapped into the Stakeholder Salience framework displayed below. This is a standard Venn diagram, and explanations for each of the categories listed in red are below.

Core: These are stakeholders who were evaluated as having high power, legitimacy, and urgency. They are the key stakeholders for a project and will be the focus of the project team.

Dominant: These stakeholders have high power and legitimacy, but low urgency. Their power and legitimacy make them important for project success, but their low urgency means they may not have to be part of the core project effort.

Dangerous: These stakeholders have high power and urgency, but low legitimacy. Their power and urgency can make them threats to project success, and they are often drivers of scope expansion or other changes that do not fall within the legitimate needs of the project.

Dependent: These stakeholders have high legitimacy and high urgency, but low power. These might be end-users of an application, or stakeholders who will suffer a secondary impact from the project that represents a major burden for them. However, their lack of power makes them dependent on the project team to ensure their needs are heard and fully considered.

Latent: These stakeholders have high power but low legitimacy and urgency. They have the power to cause problems for the project, and need to be carefully managed. However, their immediate interests are likely outside of the project scope.

Discretionary: These stakeholders have high legitimacy but low power and urgency. Their needs and issues should be heard and understood by the project team, but incorporating those needs is likely to be discretionary based on the needs of other stakeholders with greater power or urgency.

Demanding: These stakeholders have high urgency, but low power and legitimacy. They are usually a vocal stakeholder whose desires are likely not in the immediate project scope or a high priority. These are most likely to be project detractors if their demands are not incorporated.



  • Power, urgency, and legitimacy are all subjective terms in this usage, and assigning values is hard to do in a consistent and defined manner. This can make changes to your evaluations more difficult as the project moves on, due to your inherent bias toward favoring a previous analysis.


  • Venn diagrams are a standard shape in Visio, and you can try to actually fit each stakeholder name into a the diagram. But I recommend you use a reference diagram like the one above and simply identify each stakeholders categorization into a Stakeholder Communication Plan or other management document.
  • It may be easier to come up with a ranking system for each aspect being considered (power, urgency, legitimacy) and rank stakeholders first (such as on a scale of 1-5). For simplicity you could then decide that only stakeholders ranked at a 4 or 5 in a category are considered to have a “high” level of that aspect.


  1. Research Paper: A project lifecycle perspective on stakeholder influence strategies in global projects, Kirsi Aaltonen and Jaakko Kujala, Scandinavian Journal of Management (2010) 26, 381-397.
  2. Article: What is the Salience Model?, by Rupen Sharma, PMP. On Bright Hub PM.
  3. Article: Salience Model, by Denis. On the web site.



© 2013 by David Olson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *